Courts in Germany have found in favor of Motorola in two cases of patent infringement by Apple. These are the same types of proceedings that Apple has used to get Samsung products pulled from shelves and show floors in the past, and the current documents from Germany look to affect all Apple mobile products, and have enabled damages that go back to April 2003. But let's not get too excited, because I doubt that Motorola will ask for Apple products to be banned from sale in Germany, even though the courts have said they can do so.
Of the two patents in question (EP 1010336 (B1) and EP 0847654 (B1)), Motorola has already declared that one (the US version -- U.S. Patent No. 6,359,898) is "essential to ETSI standards (GSM, UMTS, 3G)". There's a very good chance the other patent will be essential to use as well. These are not patents on ideas, they are methods to use specific hardware. Motorola did invent the cell phone, after all. It's speculated that Apple "allowed" this ruling to happen so they stand a stronger chance during the appeals process, but that sounds very un-Appley and I doubt anyone in Cupertino is happy about the situation. In addition, Motorola has communicated to Engadget the following:
As media and mobility continue to converge, Motorola Mobility's patented technologies are increasingly important for innovation within the wireless and communications industries, for which Motorola Mobility has developed an industry leading intellectual property portfolio. We will continue to assert ourselves in the protection of these assets, while also ensuring that our technologies are widely available to end-users. We hope that we are able to resolve this matter, so we can focus on creating great innovations that benefit the industry.
It certainly sounds like Motorola wants to license these patents out versus force Apple to stop selling their 3G devices in Germany, and I applaud them for it.
It's worth noting that Apple has tried and failed to negotiate a better price for network technology patents in the past against Nokia, and while these patents are not the same, the premise is -- without them, you can't make a cell phone. It's mandated all over the world that fair license fees are charged for these types of patents, and anyone using them has to pay the owner -- even Apple. Fees will be paid, agreements will be reached, and iPhones will stay on the shelves in Germany. The full court judgment (in German) is after the break.